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Should Christians listen to secular music?

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By Lyn Feliciah

I thought I had heard it wrong when a friend told me one day that he will only play Gospel hymns on his wedding.

Like noodles, the wrinkles on my face were instant. His reason was quite fascinating: he wanted to live all of his life to the glory of God, even on his wedding day.

This left me thinking about so many things, including if I lived my life to such glory. I am generally one person that listens to Gospel music, but not strictly.

I enjoy a bit of Kenneth Mugabi, Naava Grey and Maurice Kirya. Sometimes, I am lost in the vocal ability of Juliana Kanyomozi and Irene Namubiru.

To me, the word secular does not halt my love for music, but my standard is simple: if the song is not sinful, I might give it a listen.

The question as to whether Christians should listen to secular music or not remains debatable among many. (Photos/NextPit)

Meaning of secular
The eighth edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines secular as not being connected with spiritual or religious matters.

This, therefore, is not limited to music. Anything; from schools to governments, can be secular. In fact, we can all affirm that we live in a secular world.

So, why would majority Christians abstain from secular music in a secular world?

I must admit that most secular music is not God-glorifying. The God of Christianity is one that desires holiness because He is Holy.

In Exodus 33, right after the golden calf incident, we see the Lord commanding the Israelites to leave Mount Sinai. “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey.”

He says in verse 3: “But I will not go up among you lest I consume you on the way for you are a stiff-necked people.”

It is clear here, and all over the Bible, that the Lord does not dwell in places that do not glorify him or to say the least, sinful.

How then can a person who claims Christianity listen to songs full of profanity?

Pr David Nasaba, a pastor at Reconciliation Baptist Church, Nalukolongo, said most of these songs promote immorality and violence, while belittling purity and integrity.

If such are songs that a Christian listens to, they should, as Paul urges us “Examine themselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Questions to consider
There are three factors to consider in determining whether to listen to or forfeit secular music. The purpose, style and content of the music. For most Christians, the purpose of the song must be worship.

Whereas this should be the primary purpose of our music, the Bible allows music for other uses.

King David, for example, who mainly used music for worship (Psalm 54:1, 67), also used the same to soothe King Saul when being tormented by evil spirits (1 Samuel 16:14-23).

The Israelites in Nehemiah and Judges also used music to caution people of danger.

Pr Nasaba believes that if a secular love song, for example, promotes the sanctity and purity of marriage, and true love, it still can be enjoyed.

He also said songs that encourage people to obey the law or live healthy lives are permissible. The debate among Christians at the moment mainly revolves around the styles of music.

Some people, like my friend, are glued to Gospel hymns because the Bible mentions the need to encourage each other in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

Others such as myself, do not mind a mix of hymns and contemporary music. While legalists insinuate that all, but the music they listen to, is satanic.

The Bible, however, has no command concerning a particular style of music.

In fact, a number of string, wind and percussion instruments are mentioned in the Bible, and various combinations of these beget the different the styles of music, even those secular.

Listening to music is entertaining & therapeutic. (Photo/UCHealth)

What to consider
Only the content of the music can determine if a Christian should listen to secular music.

I, for example, will listen to Kenneth Mugabi because his music is mostly educational and his love songs, pure. I can say the same for most of the secular artists I listen to.

However, I am not the standard. The Bible alone is. Philippians 4:8 provides a good litmus test for everything we do, including music.

Is what we are listening to true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? If it does not, it is best not to listen to it.

Does the song hold to God’s moral law or do the lyrics incite themes like violence or sexual immorality? Does the song promote idolatry and does it speak profanely of God?

Mark and avoid all songs that are sinful or lead to temptations to sin. The argument on whether to listen to secular music or not will last forever.

But we should not judge one’s salvation based on whether they listen to secular or Gospel songs alone.

What we should judge is the content of the music, while being gentle when correcting a brother in wrong.

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